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Edexcel English Language Unseen Fiction Reading | Travel and Journeys Part 1

Paul Dodd | Friday December 15, 2017

Categories: KS4, EDEXCEL GCSE, Edexcel GCSE English Language 2015, Paper 1: Fiction and Imaginative Writing, Paper 1: Fiction and Imaginative Writing Assessment Pack, Paper 1: Fiction and Imaginative Writing Schemes

This resource has been broken into two parts to make it easier for you to cut, paste and edit. Please click on the link below to find the other half of this resource.

Edexcel English Language Unseen Fiction Reading | Travel and Journeys Part 2

For Paper One

Fiction and Imaginative Writing


From the Edexcel specification

‘Students should read selections from a range of high-quality, challenging prose fiction, in preparation for responding to an unseen 19th-century prose fiction extract in the examination. They should be able to read substantial pieces of writing (extended texts) that make significant demands on them in terms of content, structure and the quality of language. Throughout the qualification, students should develop the skills of inference, analysis and evaluation’.

‘Students should read a variety of prose fiction from a range of genres and cultures. Students should use what they have learned about the writer’s craft in their reading of fiction to inspire and influence their own imaginative writing’.

Students should:

  • read and understand a range of prose fiction, including unseen texts.
  • critical reading and comprehension: identify and interpret themes, ideas and information in a range of literature and other high-quality writing; read in different ways for different purposes, and evaluate the usefulness, relevance and presentation of content for these purposes; draw inferences and justify these with evidence; support a point of view by referring to evidence within the text; reflect critically and evaluatively on text, use the context of the text and draw on knowledge and skills gained from wider reading; recognise the possibility of different responses to a text.
  • summary: identify the main theme or themes; summarise ideas and information from a single text.
  • evaluation of a writer’s choice of vocabulary, form, grammatical and structural features: explain and illustrate how vocabulary and grammar contribute to effectiveness and impact, use linguistic and literary terminology accurately to do so and pay attention to detail; analyse and evaluate how form and structure contribute to the effectiveness and impact of a text.

The sample fiction texts that have been produced in this Anthology are based loosely around four themes they illustrate the range of genres, cultures and period described above. Students should build up in their learning a wide portfolio of fiction texts that they can use beyond this in preparation for the exam.
Within the Anthology there is a discussion on how to use this material effectively in the classroom, a discussion of the assessment objectives, what examiners are looking for and one sample set of questions with indicative content for each of the four themes.

How to use unseen fiction material effectively in the classroom
Some general tips:

  • The assessment of reading skills in this paper is based entirely on unseen texts. Consequently whenever possible students should practice analysing fiction texts as ‘unseens’ as the norm in their study of both English Language and English Literature
  • Try to harness good reading skills from Key Stage 3 onwards by introducing students to a range of fiction texts from the 19th century across a range of genres and increasing the challenge of these texts up into Key Stage 4
  • There is clear crossover here with English Literature where the named nineteenth century prose texts can be taught alongside these unseen nineteenth century fiction texts as integrated exercises
  • In preparation for the writing tasks in Section B, it is important that students are allowed the opportunity to articulate their opinions on the subject of the text. This is an important skill for both English Language and English Literature although all such judgements should be evidenced based

Reading the Unseen Fiction Texts

Reading activities can be carried out as individuals, in pairs or in larger groups. The main principle should be to get students to respond independently to the texts and to understand the viewpoints and perspectives expressed and the main themes and structure of the piece. This can be followed with closer reading to analyse the writer’s craft and language.
Some words in the fiction texts are likely to be unfamiliar; students may wish to underline and highlight these. In some cases a glossary will be provided in the exam. For the purpose of this anthology, students may wish to research words they are uncertain of. Teachers may wish to add their own gloss to these passages before letting their students look at them.  The texts in the Anthology are of varying degrees of length and difficulty to suit a wide range of ability.

Texts could be analysed using the following points:

This list is not exhaustive and is quite lengthy and teachers may wish to slim this down or pick out some of the points for their students but the list will act as a starting point:
Look carefully at the opening of the text and the impact it has.

  1. What is the text about?
  2. Look at the main characters and how they are developed in the text.
  3. Look closely at the genre of the text. What is it?
  4. What style of language is adopted by the writer and how is the text structured?
  5. How does the text engage the reader?
  6. How does the text end? What impact does the ending have?
  7. Look closely at the narrative and/or descriptive sections of the text.
  8. What are the atmosphere, tone and mood of the text?
  9. What point of view is put across by the writer? How is this achieved?

Assessment of the unseen fiction texts

For English Language the following assessment objectives apply for the Reading sections in this paper:


  • Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas.
  • Select and synthesise evidence from different texts.


  • Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views


  • Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references.

For the assessment in Section A: four questions are asked covering the whole text.

The Questions are listed below with the marks:

  • Question 1- assesses AO1 totalling 1 mark based on information and ideas.
  • Question 2- assesses AO1 totalling 2 marks based on information and ideas.
  • Question 3- assesses AO2 totalling 6 marks based on the writer’s use of language and structure.
  • Question 4- assesses AO4 totalling 15 marks based on a critical evaluation of the text.

At the back of the Anthology a set of sample questions and indicative content for each theme is included along with the generic skills descriptors for each level for each question.

Some general tips with the exam

  • It is important that the text is read thoroughly before students start to look at the questions. Students may have very varied reading speeds. They should each be aware of how long it is going to take them to read a total of about 40-50 lines of text which is the approximate length of the unseen text in each exam paper.
  • As a general guideline, it is recommended that students spend approximately 15 minutes reading and annotating the unseen text. In the exam itself which is I hour and 45 minutes, the students could work on the basis of 15 minutes reading time and 45 minutes responding to the reading questions. This is a guide for students but each individual student should formulate a reading method that works best for them.
  • The questions will be structured to help you frame your responses.
  • Go back to the text and highlight the section of the text that the tasks are directing you towards.
  • Planned answers, based on a good understanding of the text tend to be significantly more successful than unplanned ones based on a hurried and potentially superficial reading.
  • The reading tasks work in a progressive fashion. The demand for skills and insight increases with each of the four questions. Each reading question builds on the one it follows. Question 4 is substantial and worth over 60% of the marks.


This extract is from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

In this extract the narrator discusses his time machine and his journey.

‘I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time travelling. And this time I was not seated properly in the saddle, but sideways and in an unstable fashion. For an indefinite time I clung to the machine as it swayed and vibrated, quite unheeding how I went, and when I brought myself to look at the dials again I was amazed to find where I had arrived. One dial records days, and another thousands of days, another millions of days, and another thousands of millions. Now, instead of reversing the levers, I had pulled them over so as to go forward with them, and when I came to look at these indicators I found that the thousands hand was sweeping round as fast as the seconds hand of a watch—into futurity.
  ‘As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then—though I was still travelling with prodigious velocity—the blinking succession of day and night, which was usually indicative of a slower pace, returned, and grew more and more marked. This puzzled me very much at first. The alternations of night and day grew slower and slower, and so did the passage of the sun across the sky, until they seemed to stretch through centuries. At last a steady twilight brooded over the earth, a twilight only broken now and then when a comet glared across the darkling sky. The band of light that had indicated the sun had long since disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set—it simply rose and fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more red. All trace of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars, growing slow-er and slower, had given place to creeping points of light. At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. At one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again, but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. I perceived by this slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the tidal drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun, even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. Very cautiously, for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to reverse my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands until the thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was no longer a mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the dim outlines of a desolate beach grew visible.
  ‘I stopped very gently and sat upon the Time Machine, looking round. The sky was no longer blue. North-eastward it was inky black, and out of the blackness shone brightly and steadily the pale white stars. Overhead it was a deep Indian red and starless, and south-eastward it grew brighter to a glowing scarlet where, cut by the horizon, lay the huge hull of the sun, red and motionless. The rocks about me were of a harsh reddish colour, and all the trace of life that I could see at first was the intensely green vegetation that covered every projecting point on their south-eastern face. It was the same rich green that one sees on forest moss or on the lichen in caves: plants which like these grow in a perpetual twilight.
‘The machine was standing on a sloping beach. The sea stretched away to the south-west, to rise into a sharp bright horizon against the wan sky. There were no breakers and no waves, for not a breath of wind was stirring. Only a slight oily swell rose and fell like a gentle breathing, and showed that the eternal sea was still moving and living. And along the margin where the water sometimes broke was a thick incrustation of salt—pink under the lurid sky. There was a sense of oppression in my head, and I noticed that I was breathing very fast. The sensation reminded me of my only experience of mountaineering, and from that I judged the air to be more rarefied than it is now.


In this extract from Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, Phileas Fogg has just arrived in San Francisco

In this extract Fogg is accompanied by his servant Passepartout and his female companion, Aouda.


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